Outside the Comfort Zone

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


Last weekend I took an extra day off from my “regular job” and traveled alone through Colorado and part of New Mexico to spend time with a friend I’ve known for more than 35 years. Despite having a GPS and an atlas, I got lost a few times, trying to navigate some towns and cities in which I’ve spent little or no time. At one point, the interstate traffic was extra backed up due to a traffic accident, and I sat on the road for quite some time before embarking on locating a different route, eventually getting to the place I’d intended. Even without the accident, car congestion raged like a tornado – neither of which is an event with which I’m comfortable.

cars on freewayDespite some fear and uncertainty, I relished my journey, experiencing breath-taking scenery, a wonderful visit with my dear friend, and exploring history and culture that I have little interaction with on a regular basis. Even though I enjoy traveling and seeing new sites and having new experiences, I stepped out of my comfort zone by doing all the driving – and having several significant setbacks – alone. It’s been more than 15 years since I undertook such a major trip basically alone; the last such adventure I had a dog and cat to keep me company (and somewhat protected). Plus, I was younger then – now that I’m older, getting outside my box of travel comfort (Wyoming and Montana with their subdued traffic) was somewhat terrifying, truthfully. But, I survived. And, brushing away the troubles I experienced, I really did enjoy myself.

Life calls us to step out of our comfort zone on occasion; so can our writing. We can write in one genre, write across genres (weave two together), or write multi-genre (two or more different types). For example, someone who is a poet may attempt a novella. Another who writes mysteries may add a touch of romance. Someone who writes children’s books may try their hand at women’s historical fiction. Not all crossovers succeed, but some do. Adventuring into a new land of writing can challenge us, uplift us, or defeat us … but we never know until we try. For a few interesting articles on crossover writing, visit http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/crossgenre.shtml, http://livewritebreathe.com/writing-in-multiple-genres/, and http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-sell-the-cross-genre-novel.

My tag line for years has been, “I write inspirational dog stories for children and adults.” And, I love what I’ve composed the past seven years! I’ve been blessed to put together five books and to have five short stories accepted into Chicken Soup for the Soul, including last week’s release of “I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That!” I’ve spoken at libraries, in classrooms, and for senior and women’s ministry groups – and I love doing those presentations! I’m published in several magazines, including Creation Illustrated and WREN, and this year I dabbled in essay/creative nonfiction … a bit “out of the box” for me, but I found I thoroughly enjoyed it! This winter I’m going to experiment with a romance story – I have several friends who write romance and I’ve read several and now I’m intrigued. I remember being young and overwhelmingly in love – I’m hoping to capture those remembrances and see what I can compose as a sweet yet saucy story (I think having my 35th class reunion helped spark the spark!) … and I just may throw in a dog rescue sub-theme for good measure! Perhaps, like a few of my friends, I’ll use a pen name as I explore this genre – there are options for getting out of the box of comfort, just like there were options for me to get to my destination as I was ‘boxed in’ the traffic!

dog in a box

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone in life or in your writing lately? Were you ultimately glad you did? Perhaps that could be a challenge to each of us as we anticipate the close of one season and the start of another – finding a favorite place to write and attempting a new genre — just for the heck of it! If you do step out of your comfort zone and attempt such an endeavor, I wish you great ideas, amazing inspiration, and good ol’ fashion creative fun! After all, writers don’t need to box themselves in, so I encourage you to step out of your writing comfort zone, expand your horizons —  I’m going to give it a whirl!

globe in a box


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.


SageBigAdventureFront-small        SageLearnsShareFront-small      Walking_FrontCover_small      Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover     Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final






Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

19 thoughts on “Outside the Comfort Zone

  1. You’ve given us a lot to think about Gayle. I remember the first time I drove alone through Chicago on my way somewhere. It was my first time out of the sheltered rural life I lived in Michigan driving on my own. I was scared, so scared. But I remember changing my thoughts to “What an adventure” and that helped me pay attention to signs, not freaking out when caught between two semis and actually getting through and on my way. I think we all need to take chances to broaden our horizons and change our perspectives. I am currently reading a mystery by Michael Connelly (The Brass Verdict). I love the characters he has created and in this book he brings two of his most-loved characters together in a murder, investigation and trial that keeps you wondering what’s really going on? Although I haven’t done much other writing than the Inzared books, I’d love to do what he has done with bringing his two characters together for a brief time. I thought it was a great concept. Thank you for sharing your journey and plans – so brave of you – you are a beacon to us all!


    1. Linda, I am humbled by your comments! I don’t feel like “a beacon”, I often feel unnerved and inadequate. But, I look at my mother and her mother before her and the many ways they “pioneered” in life and I pray I have gleaned some of that courage and adventure for life and therefore, try some new things now and then. I so appreciate your comments — they give me even more courage! A toast to stepping out of our comfort zones on occasion! SMILE


  2. Like Linda, I think you are a beacon to us all. It is hard to step out of our comfort zone. I just finished a short story that was so out of my comfort zone. We’ll see what happens to it. I liked it, but that doesn’t mean anything. LOL. Traveling I know about, try getting lost in an 18 Wheeler. I have, and it’s not pretty. *Smiling*. Thanks for the food for thought, and good luck in all that you do. Cher’ley


    1. Thank you, Cher’ley! I admit, I thought of you as I waited in that backed up traffic; I wondered what you would do (might have been a good time to pull out the notebook and write something!) As I anticipate another big trip with my dad next week, I am glad he will be with me as it was unnerving to be alone and lost and be alone and on that congested, backed-up highway. But, I survived… and it could be good fodder for a story! Best to you in your writing as well as on the road!


  3. Well said Gail. Life does get pretty exciting and sometimes scary. Driving in large areas can be so overwhelming, especially with some ‘crazy’ drivers out there. I was honored that you stopped by on your way through and could share some places away from the traffic.

    I love that you are going to write a romance, yeah! While some adventures can be scary, some are just downright fun. Here is to the fun one. Doris


    1. Thanks so much, Doris! I truly enjoyed the time we shared, and I SO APPRECIATE your willingness to drive so I could “soak in” Garden of the Gods! I will treasure that trip always. I’m reading more romances (and yours was awesome by the way!) and I do believe I’ll step off that ledge and give it a try — thanks for your encouragement as well!


  4. I wouldn’t say I write outside my comfort zone, but I write a lot of different things. I’ve already published a romance novel and a poetry collection, and I have another book of poems on the way. Last year after my husband passed, I started a memoir about my six years of caring for him at home. I also have written a short story collection that I hope to eventually publish.


    1. I’ve been so impressed with the variety in your writing, Abbie — your willingness to try different genres is a great witness to many of us writers. I’m looking forward to receiving and reading your latest book of poems!


  5. Congratulations Gayle and I’m so glad you were able to make this trip. It’s not easy unless you do it on a regular basis. I wonder now how I did it without a cell phone! Make that trip to see family (630 miles) up to 4 times a year lately, and I have to remind myself that it’s out of the comfort zone for a couple friends I’d love to come visit, but they are afraid to make it alone. Good for you and I’m anxious to read that romance! I bet rescuing dogs will be involved and that will be a great addition to a romance, one not often done. I was scared when I drove to Salt Lake City by myself a year ago, but like writing a novel, just have to push through!/


    1. Yes, Neva, a person has to push through their fears, and maybe have a meltdown now and then (SMILE!) to tackle them! Because my NM friend is moving to FL next year and I was already in CO doing a presentation, I wanted to take that opportunity to visit her, and I’m glad I did. I was able to experience many delightful things in spite of the occasional setback and I could spend time with her and with Doris …. and experience the natural beauty of some places I’ve rarely, if ever, seen. The trip was worth doing … we’ll see if the romance writing is worth doing! SMILE


  6. Hi, Gail. Well do I remember a massive traffic jam I was in while traveling through Salt Lake City in the heat of summer. On the other side was a comfortable hotel with a pool. Sometimes navigating outside your comfort zone works out well, but either way it’s an adventure.

    I appreciate your linking to my post at Live Write Breathe. Here’s wishing you many writing journeys to come.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janalyn, and it was wonderful to find your post about writing in various/multiple genres — gives us all pause and ponder. Did you stop at the motel with the pool? – I probably would have! Yes, adventure — a strong part of life especially if we step out of our comfort zone! Come visit us again sometime here at Writing Wranglers and Warriors!


  7. Thanks everyone for your comments. We all stretch out of our comfort zones, at least on occasion, I think, and it’s good to stretch those boundaries. Yet, there is something about safety, too. We need to find a good balance and be brave! Best to you all!


  8. Way to go, Gayle! Thanks for inspiring us all to step out of our comfort zones. We kind of have to move back and forth between the comfortable and the risky, don’t we? So we don’t get bored or get too terrified!


  9. I enjoy reading “travel” stories. Yep, I can empathize with you over getting lost and traffic jams, since I drove from Ohio to Las Vegas earlier in the year. Even when you get use to it, the Vegas traffic on the interstates can still be daunting, especially at rush hour.


    1. I admire you, Mike, leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar and settling into a new life — GOOD FOR YOU! I imagine traffic is pretty hectic there in Vegas and I wish you well in your new digs and with your writing!


  10. I stepped out of my comfort zone last weekend and made a solo trip on 4 coaches to Edinburgh and back- return journey some 250 miles. No getting lost since I wasn’t driving and no parking issues when I reached the heaving Edinburgh ‘Festival’ City. I defimnitely wouild have had travel and parking issues if I had driven there. However, I did, the bookings myself which was a first since my hubby usually does that for me. In my writing I’ve written across genres and I’m currently back to working on my story for early teens that’s now a bugbear since it’s been re-written so many times. I’m determined to complete it, though, and publish it. Good luck with your coming ‘romance writing’ this winter- you’ve had such a wonderful writing year already. 🙂


    1. Hi, Nancy — thank you for your comments and sharing your adventures with us, both in life and in writing! You are an inspiration — all the writing and marketing you do and how you persevere in both! I love planning trips — I’ve taken care of all the reservations for the upcoming adventure I’ll be having with my dad … it’s the ‘getting there’ that can be nerve-racking! SMILE Best to you as well, my friend!


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